Review and photos by Tom Sedens

BMW’s in-betweener sized utility vehicle sports good looks, good utility and a new engine for 2013. And don’t you worry – as you can see, it still proudly sports their horrifying naming conventions.

BMW launched this revised X3 with its smooth, naturally aspirated inline-six. It was a good (but thirsty) engine, but since we’re headed into Turbocharged, Smaller-displacement Land, the six was swapped for their 2.0L turbo inline-four. It cranks out 241 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at a deliciously low 1,250 rpm.

The power makes its way through BMW’s eight-speed automatic, and on to their xDrive all-wheel-drive system. All this works together to schlepp a 1,865-kg (4,111 lb) mid-size “sports activity vehicle” around town.

Fuel economy is acceptable – the X3 is rated at 9.7 L/100 km in the city and a very good 7.0 L/100 km on the highway. My week, spent mostly in the city, occasionally with a heavy foot, ended up yielding an average of 11.7 L/100 km. It’s a 67 L tank, and premium fuel is recommended. I talked to a few owners that say it runs perfectly fine on mid-grade.

2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i
2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i. Click image to enlarge

I was never a fan of the original (and evolved original) generations of X3s. But I feel that BMW got this one right. It’s very clearly a bigger vehicle – heck, it’s basically the size of the original X5.

The dimensions, inside and out, are great. It’s not a compact vehicle, but it never feels like a monster SUV when you’re looking at it.

BMW’s instantly recognizable front end is well done, and I like the bright LED driving light halos, or “coronas” as BMW calls them.

It looks as though more attention was paid to the surfacing work in the X3, and it came out looking confidently classy, without making too much of an effort to look tough or rugged. It appears that BMW went with a less-is-more approach and it is an elegant, clean design.

The wheels are handsome too, although they look like they could use another inch in diameter.

2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i
2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i. Click image to enlarge

Here’s the biggest change, in my opinion. The roomy cabin offers substantial headroom and room to stretch out. It feels spacious – even more so because of the enormous panoramic sunroof overhead. I found soft plastics everywhere, and on first inspection fit and finish appeared good. The space felt a bit dark, as this interior trim was the black one, but BMW does liven it up with some nice metallicized parts on the console and elsewhere.

There’s remote unlocking and a push-start ignition. As I’ve come to expect in a BMW, you get a good steering wheel – it’s adjustable, heated, and has controls for media, hands-free voice command, phone and cruise.

Behind it sits a familiar pod of white-on-black gauges coupled with a high-resolution driver information system.

The heated, power-adjustable seats are very comfortable and offer good bolstering. In this trim, they’re upholstered with BMW’s unfortunate leatherette – it looks cheap to me. The strange mottled matte color and patterning isn’t convincingly natural to me, and almost everyone who got a ride commented on this, too.

BMW’s clear and sharp widescreen display sits in the upper dash, and it is managed by the somewhat confusing iDrive system – the controller and some hard buttons are located on the console.

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